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No changes to interim maps

I noted this Friday afternoon, but in case you missed it the San Antonio court has ruled that the interim maps will be used as is for the November election.

Texas will use its current district maps for the upcoming November election, a panel of federal judges ruled Friday afternoon, ending the possibility of another round of redistricting-induced electoral chaos.

From the bench, federal Judge Orlando Garcia announced the next round of filings in the ongoing congressional map challenges would be due before Dec. 1, delaying further action until after the general election.

“We’re really relieved that we can continue with the Nov. 6 election and keep it on track,” Bexar Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen said, adding that she stopped proofing ballots to attend the hearing.

I can’t criticize this decision. The time frame to make any changes, even minor ones, would have been extremely short, and it would have been possible to only address some of the issues noted by the DC court, so at least some discriminatory effects would have remained even in a new interim map. Most of the intervenors preferred to wait till after the election as well.

Although all of the plaintiff groups were united in the view that there were additional deficiencies in the interim maps that needed to be corrected in light of the D.C. panel’s preclearance ruling on Tuesday, only LULAC was left insisting that the defects needed to be addressed before an election.

Nina Perales, counsel for the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, told the panel that she would prefer to see the issues addressed in a more deliberative way – adding that election results from November 2012 could help inform that process. Perales also told the court that she just simply didn’t see that there was enough time to accomplish all that would need to happen logistically in order to adjust the maps in time for a November election – especially with ballot printing and other hard deadlines fast approaching.

Perales also expressed concerns that the prospect of ‘jungle primaries’ in November 2012 (in which candidates of all parties run together on a single slate with the top two finishers moving on to a runoff) would lead to voter confusion and depressed turnout.

Again, I think this was the correct call given the situation. But let’s be clear that the reason we’re in this situation, where the San Antonio judges were forced to choose between allowing discrimination to continue or throwing many of the general election contests into chaos, as LULAC attorney Luis Vera characterized it, is because the Supreme Court ordered the San Antonio court to throw out the original interim maps they drew. Those original maps were based on the last provably legal maps for Congress, the State Senate, and the Lege, namely the 2001 and 2003 redistricting maps. The Supreme Court ruled that the judges needed to use the legislatively drawn maps as a starting point. While I believe that’s a defensible position, here we see its fatal flaw: It allows for the possibility of uncorrectable discrimination in an election. You can blame the DC court for taking as long as they did if you want, but the root cause was the Supreme Court decision that took perfectly reasonable and logical maps that still would have given the GOP large majorities in each chamber and threw them out. Everything flowed from there. And whatever happens to correct these injustices for 2014, nothing will undo the electoral results from this year that are achieved with these illegal maps.

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